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A quick rundown of this past week in sports, entertainment, and law
This past weekend, Machine Gun Kelly and the UFC both brought the world of sports and entertainment that much closer to “normalcy.” Admittedly, a sentence that I never thought I would type nor words you ever thought you would read. Both events were sold out and took place in Jacksonville, Florida.
The events sparked supporters and adversaries, as states such as New York remain relatively closed, opinions about sold out crowds will remain scattered across the spectrum as we continue to return to pre-pandemic life (if there will exist such a thing).
I would be remiss to not mention – while discussing re-opening the country to our favorite sports and entertainment events – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifted the pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for all adults.
However, that was enough pandemic conversation for today. Let us get into our favorite trio, sports, entertainment, and law.
An Apple a Day Will Not Keep Fortnite Away
The circle is closing in on Apple Inc. and Fortnite. Starting May 3, the two titans of their respective industries will enter the trial arena before federal Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, California. The trial dispute centers around Epic, the creator of Fortnite, believing Apple is misusing its power by suppressing its competition. On the flip side, Apple is likely to argue that Epic is simply trying to break their contract with them to generate more profit.
At its root, this is a story as old as time, a creative believing they are being held back by a higher power. Through Fortnite, Epic believes they can create a social network, or as their CEO Tim Sweeney envisions it, a “metaverse,” one where people can virtually live, work, and hang out. However, Epic believes Apple is building walls faster than Tfue in a duos skirmish.
Due to Apple’s contract with Epic, Apple’s app store takes 30 percent of Epic’s revenue from users and tightly controls access to all Epic mobile apps according to Sweeney. Epic sought a workaround and created a purchase processing system for game users within Fortnite, something that did not sit well with Apple.
After a clear war on app stores commenced by Epic, both Apple and Google removed Fortnite from their app stores. Epic retaliated by suing both. (Important note, Google is a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. and their court date has yet to be determined. The case defers a bit because the Android operating system enables users to download apps outside of the Google Play Store.)
Epic is accusing both companies of monopolistic behavior. Apple has responded, believing Epic broke their contract terms and created a smear campaign against them. Consequences of this case could affect Apple’s exposure to potential Sherman Act Section II antitrust violations and determine a cap for revenue share agreements with app developers.
As the case unfolds, it is likely that both parties would want to reach a settlement. Without one, the case may turn into an Xbox live party from 2010, volatile.
NFTs Turn to Sports to Stay Relevant
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have been all the rave in 2021. The sports world has fully embraced the new market with companies such as NBA Top Shot, that sell digital moments likened to that of a sports trading card in 1972. Well, the NFT and sports world marriage just added some new players, SportsIcon, is creating a new NFT space that directly collaborates with athletes to create and promote exclusive digital content.
SportsIcon is receiving financial support from the CEO of Dapper Labs, Roham Gharegozlou, who helped generate the NFT rage with NBA Top Shot, along with legendary rapper Nas, former NBA center Andrew Bogut and more. Within this trio you have money, entertainment, and sports, two out of three of our favorite trio. As we all know, law is riddled throughout this with the contracts necessary to make this all work so we can say we are three for three).
The goal of SportsIcon is to debut with approximately 20 NFTs in collaboration with athletes to commemorate their most iconic sporting moments. The NFTs will be paired with a two-hour long video where the athlete will discuss their mental and physical training, techniques, and best practices. SportsIcon is attempting to separate their product from other NFTs because they include insight. The idea is to have an NFT of Michael Jordan’s game winning shot against the Utah Jazz accompanied with an exclusive video of Jordan discussing his thoughts and training prior to hitting the shot.
The business model revolves around scarcity. The NFTs will be exclusively released; the scarcity of a release will drive the price. The model is like when Wu-Tang clan released a single album copy to be sold.
For all our sake, let us hope they partner with Mark Sanchez and release an NFT of his infamous butt-fumble along with his thought process.
The Super League Found its Kyrptonite
Not to be confused with cryptocurrency, although I am unsure which is more volatile. The European Super League (ESL) lasted longer than a SUNY Spring Break in 2021 but shorter than a Weekend at Bernie’s. For a full breakdown, see here.
However, there are some quick notes to mention with this story beyond the public meltdown. The fall of the ESL in 2021 does not mean the fall of the ESL in the future. Football fans across the world made their feelings known, however one thing we know about sports is their owners always seem to love something even more than their own teams: money. With the pandemic holding no prisoners, teams are desperate to make up for the financial hardships that resulted. In short, do not rule out a revised version of the ESL soon.
Secondly, America’s sporting agenda directly affected the ESL. Three of the four main supporters for the ESL, were football clubs owned by American owners: Manchester United, owned by Joe Glazer (also owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers); Arsenal, owned by Stan Kroenke (also owns the Los Angeles Rams, Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche); and Liverpool, owned by John Henry (also owns the Boston Red Sex – LeBron James is a part of this ownership group). Our idea of creating set-teams without threat of relegation to an inferior league has a correlation to the ESL.
All this section is, is a section of caution. English football clubs threw the idea of the ESL out like it was a bad batch of tea in Boston. However, that does not mean they will never drink tea again.
A World-Famous Music Producer is not a Public Figure?
As far as headlines go, that one is confusing. However, it is true. Dr. Luke, the world-famous music producer involved in a libel battle with Kesha wins a summary judgment determining he is not considered a public figure.
In a more serious tone, Luke Gottwald, the music producer involved in allegations from Kesha, that he allegedly drugged and raped her, has been granted summary judgement in favor of Gottwald. The majority court determined he is not a public figure because he did not inject himself into the public debate concerning the sexual assault of artists. The court reasoned that Gottwald injecting himself into fame on behalf of his label, music, and artist are separate because they are not the subject of defamation in the present case.
Dissenting justice Saliann Scarpulla disagreed because Gottwald has been a judge on American Idol, has given public interviews, and has a large presence on social media. Scarpulla believes that Gottwald has achieved enough notoriety to be considered a general-purpose public figure.
Let us hope that justice is properly determined by the court for both parties.
Tragedy in Basketball
In sad news, former University of Kentucky Basketball player Terrence Clarke died in a car crash in Los Angeles. Clarke, 19, was looking forward to the NBA Draft and was leaving a workout. According to the law enforcement agents familiar with the accident, Clarke was traveling at a high rate of speed and ran a red light. Nobody was injured in the accident.
Clarke had a close connection to the Boston area and had even worked out with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was deeply saddened by the news, saying in a press conference that his son looked up to Clarke.
Death is always sad, however, when the young pass, it hurts a little more. All our thoughts will be with his family and friends during this time.
3rd year law student and Co-President of the Buffalo Sports ands Entertainment Law Society. I enjoy writing and learning more about the intersection of business, sports, entertainment and law.